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TUAW Interview: Filmmaker Dennis Liu


As we recently showcased here at TUAW, filmmaker Dennis Liu's Mac-inspired video for the group The Bird And The Bee combines his love of music, filmmaking and the Mac to create a very entertaining and innovative piece of work. In fact, we liked it so much here at TUAW, that we decided we wanted to know a bit more about Dennis and his creative process.

I spent some time talking with the filmmaker recently and got some info on how he made the video, why he made it, what he hopes to gain from it and what's next for this very talented guy.

CHRIS ULLRICH: Tell me a bit about how you came up with the idea for the video? What inspired you to do it?

DENNIS LIU: I'm a 23 year old college grad trying to become a full-time director/creative. Right now, I'm a producer at an ad agency, but I've always had some ideas for Apple commercials and always wanted to shoot one. Apple has some of the world's finest advertising, and I wanted to play at their level.

The film industry is so competitive these days, that you really need to do something innovative and different to stand out, and I wanted to really make something that would get some attention from my peers. So the result was this viral video for my reel, Apple, and one of my favorite musicians - The Bird & the Bee.

For Apple, I figured it was a cool idea that shows the beauty, style, and most importantly - the function of Apple computers. People think they're really cool looking, and I totally agree, but they are also wickedly powerful machines.

So the video combines style and function.

Take me through your production process a bit?

I had the idea last year. It probably took me a month to plan out, three months to finish. The whole thing probably cost me about $100. The girl in the video is Larkin Clark. I saw Larkin's acting reel when I was casting for another shoot and thought she had a lot of talent.

We became friends and she did it for free. She's really a great actress, and hopefully this will help her career. I just started getting into typography too, which helped a lot, obviously. In the spirit of keeping this video interactive, I left a hint of how the video was done from about 1:45 - 2:00.

You can watch it again and again to figure it out.

CU: What has the response been to the video so far?

DL: Most of my friends have seen it. What surprised me is the other people who have contacted me. Microsoft, the author of stickies, a developer of the original OS X, and a lot of Apple employees have written me.

My highlight is one of my favorite feature film directors of all time coincidentally saw it and emailed me. People from Italy, Russia, and some other places have called. It's been pretty sweet.

There are more crazy stories. But, I think people really like it! I think we'll hit about a half million views by the end of the week.

CU: Have you heard anything from the artist? No "Cease and Desist" letters I hope.

DL: The Bird & the Bee contacted me, and they really liked it. I scored two tickets to their next concert in NY, and we hope to meet up. Hopefully they will let me direct their next video!

We're still shooting emails back and forth, but Inara was really sweet. They are really underrated and I hope this helps them sell some albums.

CU: Do you plan on doing any more video like this?

DL: I have a really cool sequel idea for another Apple viral video, but I'm still figuring out the time and effort needed. We'll see where this first video leads. So far so good.

CU: Tell me a bit about your background? School, training, etc?

DL: I worked at an ad agency called Saatchi & Saatchi in New York and am currently at BBDO in New York. I went to film school at NYU.

CU: When making these types of projects, are you influenced by any other filmmakers, artists or other things like that?

DL: Not really. It just has to be super cool so that people will watch it. No one will watch stuff that's not worth their time anymore. I won't either.

CU: Have you been using Macs for a long time?

DL: Oh yeah, ever sense I was in Kindergarden. Long time Mac user.

CU: What's your favorite piece of Apple technology?

DL: Does Pixar count?

CU: Sure why not. What's next for you?

DL: Well, my goal was to make a spec viral video for Apple and I think it worked. Next, I'm just trying to keep showing people that I'm a complete filmmaker, and hoping more people will give me a shot.

It's a very hard and long road to become a director, and I understand that. It certainly hasn't been easy. But, I hope this video will help.

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